Geneva by Whitney Davis

Brought back from her latest daydream by a sudden chill, Logan shifted her body around in the stiff train seat, trying to make herself comfortable. Sensing Mel’s annoyance to her right, she directed her attention to the changing landscape outside instead of attempting small talk. Forest, farm, sheep, mountains. More mountains, the finer details blurred by speed.

Guiltily sipping her caramel-flavored coffee, Logan did her best to at least try and appreciate the beauty of the golf-course-like Swiss countryside. Of the two other countries they had traveled to so far on their honeymoon, their last, Switzerland, was irrefutably the most beautiful. The view flashed to pitch black as they traveled through a tunnel. The unmistakable scent of Mel’s black coffee she had accidentally spilled on her new wife’s coat that morning filled the artificially lit air. Slowly, Logan put her sickly sweet coffee back into its cupholder.

As their train began to exit the tunnel, a voice came on over the intercom and spoke, first in French, then heavily accented English. Logan and Mel looked vaguely in the direction the announcement was coming from, but the swooshing noise of the train leaving the tunnel rendered the announcement a garbled mess. Logan’s attention was distracted further by a man in thin, metal frames sitting in the row next to them. She had noticed him earlier while boarding.

“Wait, what did they just say?” Logan mumbled to Mel.

“I think I heard them say something about Geneva. So, the next stop should be us.” That voice was one of the top five things Logan had loved about her early on in their relationship, though she wasn’t sure about that now that she had been hearing it more often. While planning their honeymoon, Mel had warned Logan about how exhausting it would be to try and travel to multiple countries instead of staying in one. Wouldn’t she have rather have a relaxing, romantic retreat into a little secluded villa somewhere? Wouldn’t that be easier?

Logan sighed and said, “Ok, thank God. Where’s our hotel at in Geneva, again?”

“It’s called The Geneva Royale.” Mel scanned through the folder that held all of their information. “It’s only a few blocks from the station. I don’t think we’ll need to take a taxi once we get there. We can just walk.” In Paris, her disastrous attempt to find their hotel using her phone’s GPS had resulted in the pair spending a small fortune on a taxi ride back to their designated corner of the city. Logan began rubbing in an all too familiar way.

“Are you sure? I don’t think we can afford getting lost again,” Logan said.

“I don’t know. We’ll figure it out, either way,” Mel said.

The dreary weather of Paris, their first destination, had left them both in lackluster moods. Coming from Fort Lauderdale, they had imagined that a wintry, European honeymoon would feel like being in a romantic snow globe of bliss. Instead, it was mostly just mushy and neither snuggly, nor fire-lit. They continued on in silence, watching the scenes change outside of their window as if thumbing through a children’s flip book.

The train slowed beneath them. “I’m going to head toward the door and try and beat the crowd getting off.” Mel stood up, adjusting her thick, blue glasses. Mel’s previous comment about getting their things together suddenly came to the forefront of Logan’s thoughts.

Hurriedly, Logan began collecting her odds and ends. “Sounds good. Let me just get my stuff packed up and I’ll meet you outside.” She watched her partner walk toward the train’s spaceship-like door. Mel’s long dark hair and the stark smell of black coffee trailing behind her—followed closely by the chic Frenchman in thinly framed glasses. For a moment, she was again distracted from collecting her belongings by this man as he walked by, packing his cigarettes. While tapping the upturned carton, she noticed how perfectly his military-styled coat seemed to fit his narrow shoulders. Looking back down at her own puffy parka, Logan couldn’t help but feel, now, like she was wearing a feather-stuffed garbage bag. Snapping back into herself, she remembered that she needed to hurry – these trains never paused for long at each stop before continuing onward.

In grabbing quickly for her things, Logan managed, instead, to scatter them across the floor at her feet. As she reached for her fallen chapstick, train ticket, etc., her cell phone clunked to the floor, as well. Letting out a sharp, “Goddamnit” under her breath, she did her best to keep calm. She paused, exhaled slowly, then collected each of her belongings, one-by-one.

Eventually, Logan stumbled into the end of the queue of straggling passengers exiting the train, as she rolled her luggage behind her. Momentarily, she was comforted by the ease of following the queue. It was not until all the other passengers stepped off the train and cleared the way that she, again, noticed the Frenchman, this time standing at the doorway just inside the cabin in that damned chic-looking coat. A grey tail of smoke from a nearly finished cigarette trailing from his manicured fingers.

Tall, slim, and impeccably dressed, he was the sort of person who made everyone else crossing his path instantly regret dressing for comfort and warmth in the cold January weather. For, instead, he seemed to view the inhospitable weather as opportunity to showcase “that old thing” in his closet reserved for the special occasion of  walking outdoors. He peered over his silver wire-rimmed glasses that reminded her so much of her father’s, then casually flicked the cigarette butt out just in time before the automatic doors clicked shut.

She pressed the large green button to re-open the door, but it refused to acknowledge her command. Looking through the door’s single, circular window, she could see Mel staring back at her from the station platform on the other side. Frowning, she tried again. Nothing.

“Les portes ne s’ouvrent pas nouveau,” the Frenchman said.

“What? Oh, sorry. Um…Anglais?”

“Oh, oui, sure. The doors will not open again.” Eyeing her puffy parka, he already seemed bored with the silly American girl.

Logan practically shouted back at him, “What? What do you mean they won’t open again?” Her neck now began to itch in what was sure to be a full-blown hive attack. She pressed the door’s green over, and over. Looking out of the small, circular window, Logan watched helplessly while Mel’s eyes mirrored her own as she, too, realized what was happening. Logan could simply watch on as Mel’s head quickly snapped left, right, left again. And just like that, Mel signaled to her by pointing to the right before sprinting off in that direction.

Logan felt heart beating so hard, she was sure the Frenchman, who was still leaning nonchalantly inside the doorway, could hear her heart beat pulsing from inside her chest. Pleadingly, she made eye contact with him and saw his bored gaze suddenly change, become older, more empathetic, like her father’s whenever he handed her a Xanax.

“Are you okay?” he asked. 

Shaking, she blurted out, “No! My wife, Mel, she’s in Geneva and now I can’t get off this train.”

“It is okay. Your wife, what is her phone number? We can call her on my phone,” he offered soothingly.

“I can’t. She didn’t bring her phone.” After how much the wedding ceremony had just cost their parents, the newlywed couple had tried their best to save what they could on this extravagant, European honeymoon. The event space alone had cost $20,000. Not to mention their dresses, flowers, liquor, invitations. After hitting $40,00, the couple’s parents stopped bringing money up with them altogether. After what had happened to Logan and Mel, to their community, their parents did not have the heart to put up a fight on the wedding budget.

The Frenchman just looked back at Logan, confused; his dark eyebrows furrowing.  Logan realized that it was probably too difficult for him to understand her while she was in hysterics. Thinking again of her father, she breathed deeply, found an ounce of composure, and tried to explain the situation the way he had taught her to in moments like these: slowly, saying One. Word. At. A. Time.

“I’m sorry, Sir. My wife, Mel and I are Americans on our honeymoon. We were just separated at the last stop on our way to Geneva. She has no phone. I don’t know what to do.”

Brows unfurling, the man said, “Oui, I see. So, you are now going to Geneva and she is not. What is the name of your hotel in Geneva? We can call it. Maybe she has already done the same.”

She did not know what he meant about “going to Geneva” because Mel had just gotten off at the stop in Geneva. To her utter horror she realized that she could not remember the name of their next hotel, regardless. The little composure she had previously regained now completely dissipated.

“Oh my God, I don’t know. I don’t know anything! Mel is the one with all of our information.” It was Mel who had booked all of their traveling arrangements and knew their schedule by heart, and Mel who had her fucking Xanax. For the past week, Logan’s greatest responsibility had simply been to follow Mel’s lead and try not to lose anything along the way. Another thing they had learned early on in their travels was that Logan was pretty incapable of the latter. Not only had she already misplaced her ID at a club in Paris, but she almost lost Mel’s passport, too. Thanks to the panic attacks that had followed each of Logan’s little misplacements, Mel had put herself in charge of holding onto all of their important travel documentation. Logan was literally lost without her.

Suddenly, Logan’s shoulders went limp and she and her overstuffed luggage sank to the ground, making a protective wall. Her eyes welled with that she did not try to hold back.

Gently, her helpful stranger placed his hand on the top of her shoulder. Logan could smell the remains of the then far-gone cigarette on his breath.

“Now, now. Do not cry. Look, dear. I promise. Stay here, I will fix this. I will speak with the conductor. Sometimes being lost can be a good thing.” Logan kept her eyes on the ground, but managed to catch a glimpse of his tasseled, leather loafers as he shuffled quickly past her into the next cabin. She noticed he had on starch blue and grey argyle socks.

The tears began to come more quickly now. It was all she could manage not to curl up into the fetal position and rock herself back and forth. All she wanted was for someone to tell her what to do. But she was on her own.

Alone, Logan started taking inventory of her thoughts, trying to organize them, to make a plan. First of all, she could get off at the next stop and get on another train going back the way she had just come from. Maybe then she would find Mel waiting for her back at the previous station. Otherwise, she could get off at the next station and wait for Mel to come to her. But how could she choose? If she chose wrong, like usual, she would risk missing her partner in transit. Frozen in indecisiveness, Logan instead just cried, wanting her dad. He always knew how to gently pet her head as he held her soothingly her until she calmed down enough to speak.

Then it hit her. Fumbling around on the floor, she reached into one of her bags and pulled out her phone. Calling her dad ought to have been the last resort seeing as how she had spent months trying to reassure him that she and Mel would be fine in Europe. That she could handle herself, even though neither of them had ever traveled without their parents before. Still, after the attack at Pulse in Orlando that summer, neither of the couples’ parents could bring themselves to try to talk Logan and Mel out of jumping into their engagement and subsequent rush to get married. They were still in college, but the Pulse shooting carried with it a current that could not be argued against, not after they both lost friends, not so soon. Anyway, Logan and Mel had been together for years, they loved each other, they would survive.

The phone rang on the other end. He answered. “Hello? Logan, Logan?” What’s wrong?” Her father’s voice sounded just as it had that night at the club as she tried desperately to get the words out about the shooter. About her dead friends. About the bullet that missed her cheek by a hair. She clicked the phone off and threw it on the ground in front of her like she had just burnt her fingertips.

In that moment, Logan wanted so desperately to stand up, to just stand up and walk back to the seat. How was that hard? But she was afraid that if she did manage to make it, sit down, and look back out the chilly window, that she would then fully realize how quickly she was being propelled away from Mel—that she would realize how fucked she was and immediately puke on the nondescript carpet of the train’s cabin. So, instead, she continued sitting cross-legged on the floor and stared down the nearest wall, not moving. Hardly breathing. Over and again, she repeated: Mel, Mel, Mel, God, what would Mel do if she were here?

Suddenly, she knew. She had to make up her mind for once. Not what would Mel would do, or what her father would say, but what the Hell would she do? Right now. Mel would be smart enough to borrow someone else’s phone, wherever she was, and find her, but she needed to get off this train at the next stop. Of course, she would have to wait at the stop for Mel to reach her, probably for a while. What if she panicked again? No. She could do this, alone, and without a Xanax.

The relief of having a plan soothed Logan. She could do this. She just needed to get up off the floor and return to her seat like an adult, damnit. Determined, Logan picked herself up and stood. She did not feel embarrassed like she usually did after a panic attack—she felt powerful. She imagined making a path through her luggage, like a knight lowering her drawbridge, ready for battle. Fight or fucking flight. Organizing herself, she began heading back to her cabin.

She heard footsteps heading her way. Logan paused. What the Hell, she thought this was a metaphor? “Logan, Logan!” She recognized Mel’s voice. Mel?

Like magic, Mel appeared before her, followed by her dapper Frenchman and a flank of four of the train’s crew members. Yep, this was definitely some sort of wizardry. Smiling widely, Logan’s helpful stranger somehow looked again just like her father. “You see? I told you. It is fixed.”

Logan felt her neck flush bright red as she re-locked eyes with Mel through her thick blue glasses once again. An official-looking woman with a slicked-back, blond ponytail and a light-grey collared shirt stepped out from behind her to ask if everything was alright.

“I don’t understand,” Logan stammered. “I thought you left at the last stop?”

“Oh my God, I know! I tried to tell you that I saw an open door at to a cabin way up ahead. I almost didn’t get back on, but I made it. I’ve been trying to make my way back to you this whole time,” Mel explained, her breath short from her journey. “I was so, so scared. I knew you must be completely freaking out.” 

“I mean…” Logan began, looking back to the Frenchman who was still beaming proudly at her. “Yeah, but I was handling it.” Both he and Mel chuckled.

“Logan, honestly. I’m so sorry. I totally screwed up. I thought I heard the conductor say that the next stop was Geneva, but they had said it was the stop after the next. I can’t believe…I don’t know how I didn’t hear that part.”

“Oh, yeah, damn,” was her only response. Awkwardly looking around at her band of would-be-heroes, Logan paused at the Frenchman, and did her best to smile back at him. He met her gaze for a moment before ushering the train attendants back to their duties and retreating himself, silently. Mel, seeing her smile, looked behind just in time to catch a glimpse of the backside of the military-style coat of the man who she believed to have somehow helped Logan.

“Who was that?” Mel asked, her head cutely cocked just slightly to the left. “Wasn’t he the in our cabin?”

“What? Yeah…yes, he was. I don’t know. He was just a helpful stranger,” Logan said.

“Well, whatever. Oh my gosh, I’m just glad you weren’t left by yourself. Do you need a Xanax, babe?”

“Um, okay. Thanks, Mel.”

“Oh please, it’s fine. Everything will be ok, now. I can’t believe I almost lost you like that.”

Logan popped the Xanax into her mouth. “Yeah, me either,” she said before swallowing.

# # #

Whitney Davis is currently a graduate student in the Draper Program for Humanities and Social Thought at New York University. After one whole year of teaching high school English near her home in Kansas City, MO, she decided to return to school to study the phenomenal effect of social media on contemporary youth culture. Thematically, she often writes on the many ways anxiety manifests in individuals across the spectrum of age, gender, class, and sexuality.


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